Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How About a Little Perspective This Christmas?

I absolutely love Christmas. By mid-November, I am antsy to throw on a little Harry Connick, Jr. and get into the spirit of the season. I mean, I really dig everything about Christmas – the music, the lights, the great food, the family time, the festive decorations.

I guess there’s one exception: commercialization. I recently read a sobering statistic on Christmas consumerism. Each year, people in the U.S. spend $450 billion on Christmas gifts. $450 BILLION!

I was shocked back in early September, when some stores already had boxes of artificial trees and holiday decorations they were preparing to set out for display. It made my stomach turn.

Over the years, retailers launched the Christmas buying season with “Day After Thanksgiving” sales. And, they still do use that date as a means to forecast how successful or dismal the economics of Christmas will turn out to be. But, Labor Day Christmas sales? Yikes!

But, no matter how much I dislike the bombardment of radio jingles, TV commercials, sales papers, catalogs, emails, billboards, and pop-up ads, there’s only one person responsible for how I choose to handle it and approach it: myself.

Like all parents, my wife and I have to combat the junk to which our kids are exposed – the junk that results in the “I wants.” And, this condition weighs heavy on me. Because my kids lack perspective. They have no idea what it means to do without. And, quite frankly, neither do I.

To a degree, I am thankful that my children don’t know what it means to be deprived or underprivileged. But, as a parent – and more than that, as a follower of Christ – I want them to know that our security is not centered on the creature comforts this world offers. Joy and peace – the two things Christmas promises – are not found in a stocking or under a Douglas Fir. They were deposited at the manger, and were guaranteed at the cross.

Is there anything wrong with giving or receiving gifts at Christmas? Not at all. Gifts are one way we show people how much we love and appreciate them. But, it often gets out of hand. The most stressful thing about Christmas, for me, is not the money we spend, or the chaotic schedule we have to keep in going to parties and family gatherings during the holidays. It’s somehow finding space for all the new stuff we and our kids get.

Each year, Amy and I sit down with our boys and clean out all the toy areas in the house. We remove the toys they “just had to have” (that they rarely play with) so we can replace them with the new ones “they just had to have.” We choose the best “old” toys, bag them up, and give them away to children who do not have as much as we have been blessed with. But, I have learned that isn’t enough.

A good friend of mine recently sent me some information on a great opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of those who are in need – in countries that really need help. An organization called Advent Conspiracy is helping to unite people and churches by providing avenues to impact the world this Christmas season. I invite you to check it out, and join me and thousands of others who want to share the love of Jesus during this uniquely special time of year.

Please visit www.rethinkingchristmas.com and see how you, your family, or your church can be a part of a worldwide effort to help provide for others…and gain a new perspective of what it means to truly be in need.

Merry Christmas!

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